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Farm Museum ready to uncork results of wine project

The Queens County Farm Museum will soon be sharing the literal fruits of its labor next week when it auctions off the first bottles of wine made from grapes harvested at the Bellerose farm.

The farm started growing the wine grapes in 2004 and has made four varieties: merlot, cabernet franc, chardonnay and Adriance, its own red blend named after the Dutch family that built part of the farm.

The auction is scheduled for May 18 and proceeds will benefit the farm.

“We’ll see how it goes. We haven’t sold wine before,” said Gary Mitchell, the farm museum’s director of operations.

Mitchell was one of a select few who have tasted the wine.

“It’s very drinkable,” he said. “They’re not wines that are going to knock you over like big bold reds from California, but they’re representative of wines from Long Island. You do taste the fruit, which is nice. There’s an earthiness to the Adriance that I think some people will really like.”

The vineyard at the farm museum was the brainchild of Jim Trent, the farm’s executive director, who thought it would be interesting to bring viticulture to a city not known for wine while attracting more adults to the farm.

Mitchell said the experience was the first time he had maintained a vineyard, so the museum arranged for him to take classes in California.

“We’re all novices, so they had the good sense to send me to UC-Davis for courses in vineyard management,” he said. “It was an experiment in this geographic area in this particular farm.”

Mitchell said the vineyard’s grapes produce about 350 cases of wine a year. The grapes are sent to a winery on Long Island to be made into wine.

Grape buds develop in the farm’s vineyard in April and are harvested in the fall, Mitchell said.

Frank Pagano, a farm museum employee who works in the vineyard, said the farm is waiting for its years of hard work to pay off.

“We’re really excited. We hope everyone will be excited as much as we are,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work. If you don’t love doing it, you have no business being in this business.”

Following the auction, the wines will go on sale to the general public at the museum’s gift shop. Prices range between $21 and $29 a bottle.

The farm museum is working with Astoria cook Tamara Reynolds to host a series of five dinners using locally grown food, including fruits and vegetables grown on the farm, Mitchell said.

The museum had its first such meal last year through the California organization Outstanding in the Field, which promotes farms by having dinners in fields where crops are grown to organize urban communities around agriculture, he said.

The farm also sells fruits and vegetables that it grows and has eggs from its chickens for sale.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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